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Charles Walker v. andrew J. Stern

August 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tucker, J.


August ___ , 2012

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1)*fn1 , Defendants' Kline & Specter and Andrew J. Stern Motion to Dismiss (collectively "Legal Defendants") (Doc. 13), Defendant Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County's Motion to Dismiss ("Judicial Defendants") (Doc. 20), Defendant Angie Otero a/k/a Angie Jones ("Otero") Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 28) and Plaintiff's Response in Opposition thereto (Doc. 16, 25 and 26). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions and for the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss are granted and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.*fn2


Plaintiff Charles Walker is an inmate presently confined at Fayette County Prison.

Defendant Angie Otero a/k/a Angie Jones, is the mother of Plaintiff's two children, Kiara Walker, now deceased, and Cyani Walker. Defendant Andrew Stern, is an attorney employed by Defendant Kline and Specter, and represented Ms. Otero in the underlying medical malpractice suit. Defendant Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (hereinafter "Judicial Defendants") presided over Plaintiff's case involving the custody of his daughter Cyani Walker. (Compl. 3-8.)

Pro se Plaintiff, Charles Walker filed this action under 42. U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 against the Defendants for alleged violations of his First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment Constitutional rights. Plaintiff also seeks relief under various Pennsylvania state laws including breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation and loss of consortium. Plaintiff's allegations are broad and include a detailed narrative of several court proceedings, however the crux of his claims revolve around a medical malpractice lawsuit for the wrongful death of his infant daughter, Kiara. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Otero and her attorney, Defendant Andrew Stern, conspired to deprive him of his right to recover his share of the settlement award from the medical malpractice suit by tricking him into signing a waiver of claims. He also alleges that the two Defendant's in furtherance of their conspiracy to deprive him of the his inheritance rights, conspired to have Defendant Otero appointed as administratrix of Kiara's estate. Plaintiff also alludes to a conspiracy between Defendant Otero and the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County involving the custody of his other daughter, Cyani Walker. (Compl. ¶¶ 1 -2, 11, 14 and 15.)

The facts construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff are as follows. On August 30, 2005, Defendant Angie Otero filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Temple University Hospital after her infant daughter, Kiara, succumb to complications from hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Prior to the commencement of the malpractice suit, on August 25, 2005, Plaintiff, upon the advice of Andrew Stern and Angie Otero, signed a waiver of claims relinquishing his rights in the suit. (Compl. ¶ 10.) In 2006, the parties reached a settlement agreement, awarding Otero $2.25 million in damages. On December 4, 2006, the Office of the Register of Wills of Philadelphia issued letters of administration, naming Otero as the administratrix of Kiara's estate. (Pl.'s Exhibit 4 and 5.) During such time, Plaintiff received a notice of the estate stating that he was entitled to a portion of the proceeds. Shortly thereafter, upon Plaintiff's request, a hold was placed on the funds and a hearing was held to determine the administration of Kiara's estate. By Order dated December 14, 2006, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, after having considered the waiver signed by Plaintiff and the other materials submitted relating to the Petition, allocated and distributed the settlement proceeds, but did not distribute any of the settlement funds to Plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 16.) *fn3

Thereafter, on May 4, 2006, Otero filed a Complaint for custody of Cyani Walker in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Family Division. (Compl. ¶ 15.) On August 17, 2006, the court awarded Otero primary physical and legal custody of the child without prejudice to Walker, who was unavailable due to his incarceration. Walker later filed a pro se petition to modify the Order but failed to properly serve or notify Otero. On January 27, 2010 the court entered an Order granting Walker's request to participate telephonically in the custody hearing, which was rescheduled for June 28, 2010. Prior to the hearing, on June 21, 2010, Otero filed a petition for special relief seeking modification of the existing custody order to terminate Plaintiff's parental rights and prohibit him from contacting his daughter.*fn4 (Compl. 18; Pl.'s Exhibits 7, 16, and 17.)

Plaintiff filed suit against the Defendants in this Court on March 8, 2011, requesting the following relief: (1) declaratory judgment deeming Defendants' actions as stated unconstitutional and voiding both the waiver of claims and custody order; (2) a preliminary and permanent injunction freezing Defendants' assets in relation to the Estate of Kiara Walker, and enjoining enforcement of the custody order and/or further proceedings in relation to Plaintiff in the Court of Common Pleas; (3) compensatory damages from Defendants Kline & Specter and Andrew Stern in the amount of one million five hundred thousand dollars; and (4) liquidated and/or expectancy damages from Defendants Kline & Specter, Andrew Stern, and Angie Otero in the amount of Plaintiff's share of the settlement proceeds. (Compl. ¶¶ 27 - 32.) On March 18, 2011, the Court issued an Order closing Plaintiff's case because he failed to pay the $350.00 filing fee or to file a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2.) After filing several amended motions(Doc. 3, 5, 8), Plaintiff was granted leave to proceed with his action by the Court on October 14, 2011. (Doc. 9.)

In response to Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendants each timely filed their respective motions to dismiss.*fn5 Legal Defendants contend that Plaintiff's Complaint is barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. Defendant Court of Common Pleas argues that Plaintiff's suit against them is barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity and because a state court is not a person subject to suit under § 1983. Finally, Defendant Angie Otero requests that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to comply with the applicable statute of limitations and failure to properly effectuate service.

The Court will now address the pending motions in turn.

II. Legal Standard

On a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the court is required to accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and to view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 (3d Cir. 1994). While the court will accept well-pled allegations as true for the purposes of the motion, it will not accept bald assertions, unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or ...

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